There were many highlights during our recent conference this year in Rochester and Chatham.

For me it started with arriving Friday evening to coincide with the excellent illustrated talk by Warren Hewertson regarding the history of the wheelbarrow.

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It was informative and entertaining and was delivered in a manner which clearly showed a depth of research and enthusiasm. Warren was one of several overseas delegates that included members from Belgium and Australia.

Saturday morning began with another excellent illustrated talk by the ever-reliable Richard Filmer, about many of the traditional trades and crafts that are particular to the county of Kent. Richard had selected images from his extensive archive to illustrate the talk and we were all further educated in Kentish trades, especially those surrounding the cultivation of hops, coopering, rake-making, basket-making and coppicing.

The AGM saw the welcoming of several new committee members, including Hugh Thompson, Steve Dowling, Sandra Wilson as Publicity Officer and Michael Leak as our new Treasurer. The vote was unanimous for Jane Rees to become our new President.

Special thanks was offered by all to Brian Read who has recently retired from his position as Newsletter Editor. His excellent work in ensuring that our newsletter has been of consistent quality for many years will be missed. A minute's silence was also held to remember those TATHS members who sadly passed away over the past twelve months, most notably Ken Hawley.

The only aspect of the proceedings that disappointed was the lack of volunteers coming forward to fill our current vacancy for a Newsletter Editor, one of the most rewarding and stimulating roles that our society has. On a more positive note, a few days before the conference I received a generous donation from Myer Salaman and his family which has been offered to maintain the longevity of the Salaman Awards for future generations.

The buffet lunch was followed by several members displaying tools and related items from their personal collections. This display, including ropeworking, leatherworking and other tools relating to the trades of the wheelwright and cabinetmaker was further boosted by those members offering talks about their specific areas of collecting and research.

After the annual dinner Christopher Proudfoot conducted the always popular conference auction of old tools and related books and catalogues.

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There were many good quality and unusual items and the bidding was competitive at times, but the atmosphere was friendly and buoyant and the results left many of the delegates satisfied with a clutch of good tools and our society gained some funds too.

The Sunday morning highlight was a visit to the nearby town of Faversham to have a guided tour of the Shepherd Neame Brewery.

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Two of the brewery staff gave us an informative tour to not only look at the brewing process but to also show us the collection of coopering items and other artefacts relating to the history of this long established company. The tour was completed with all the participants able to taste-test a selection of the brewer's products, including lagers, ales and stout.

Overall, a great weekend of events and particular thanks to my fellow committee members, especially Paul Coutts and Mike Chubb for all their effort over the past few months with the organising this very enjoyable conference. Lastly, I have missed out what was probably the best bit! My late arrival on Friday meant that I had missed the main event, of a tour of the Chatham Historic Dockyard and a chance to handle the 18th century tools in the famous Seaton tool chest in the Rochester Museum. All those I spoke to whom had been on these visits expressed how rewarding it had been.

This conference highlighted many of our society's strengths; the extensive knowledge that our members have and a willingness to share it, the commitment of the volunteers who make up the committees and regional groups organisers, and the passion that surrounds the study of historic tools and trades.

I hope to see you at the next one.

Jonathan Green-Plumb
TATHS Chairman


To enlarge more pictures from the conference, or view them as a slideshow, click or tap the preview image below.

The pictures also show the visit to the Seaton Chest, which Jonathan missed.